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Workers In The Service Industry Seek Policy Change As Pandemic Threatens Staffing

Empty tip jar
Service industry employees rely heavily on tips to make a living [shutterstock]

Last month, the U.S. economy added only 266,000 jobs, a far more disappointing jobs report than many were expecting.

Shortly thereafter, the US Chamber of Commerce called on Congress to cancel the extra $300 a week unemployment benefits that are set to run though September.

They cited the reason for that request as workers chosing to stay on unemployment, rather than go back to their jobs.

It was a similar and controversial theme we explored last Monday, here on The Sound of Ideas. We discussed the troubles of the service industry as it related to staffing and we heard from several restauranteurs claiming that perhaps people were more content collecting unemployment rather than going back to a work at an establishment where unvaccinated customers are coming in and where business, and the subsequent tips they need to supplement their paychecks, are considerably down.

We drew quite a bit of feedback following that discussion, primarily asking us to put together a program looking at the situation from the worker's point of view.

So today another look at how the service industry is trying to reopen, as America looks to move past the pandemic.

Is there in fact a labor shortage? Or do we need to more closely examine the conditions in the industry for reasons people don't want to go return to working at your favorite restaurants? When I asked a restauranteur last week if the wages might be part of the problem the question was largely ignored.

Today, we hear from service workers, some who have stayed in the industry and some who have decided to leave.

Later in the hour, a preview of this month's Science Cafe lecture put together by Case Western Reserve University.

We'll hear from Dr. Sarah Busch, the Director of Regenerative Medicine at Athersys about a new stem cell therapy called MultiStem. It's aimed at helping stroke victims recover.


Science Cafe Cleveland


- Mike Shields, researcher, Policy Matters Ohio
- Rosa, service industry employee and worker's advocate at The Northeast Ohio Worker Center
- Patrick Scullen, former service industry employee now insurance broker
- Melissa Gavlak, server and bartender, Pickwick and Frolick/Hilarities 4th Street Theater
- Sarah Busch, PhD, Director of Regenerative Medicine, Athersys

Drew Maziasz is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and also serves as the show’s technical producer.